Published on July 9th, 2016 | by Curtis Mayfield
Swiss Army Man – Film Review
Reviewed by Curtis Mayfield M-H on the 30th of June 2016
Madman Entertainment presents a film by DANIELS (Daniel Scheinert & Daniel Kwan)
Written by Daniel Scheinert & Daniel Kwan
Produced by Eval Rimmon, Lauren Mann, Lawrence Inglee, Jonathan Wang, Miranda Bailey & Amanda Marshall
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano & Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Music by Andy Hull & Robert McDowell
Cinematography: Larkin Seiple
Edited by Matthew Hannam
Running Time: 95 minutes
Release Date: the 14th of July 2016
There is absolutely no way of categorising Swiss Army Man. There’s a better chance of figuring out who Australia’s Prime Minister will be before a clear definition of this movie is made. Co-directors and writers Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as the Daniels) pack their feature length directorial debut with so much “what-the-hell-is-going-on” moments that it would be fair if a few viewers get lost along the way. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually the essential charm and draw the movie has. For a film about a guy lost on an island who befriends a dead body, there’s a lot of life to the story. Let me elaborate. The film begins with Hank (Paul Dano) hopelessly lost on a remote island about to hang himself after months of being stranded alone. Right before he closes the deal, a body washes up on shore. With some potential company and friendship, Hank attempts to revive the suited up mysterious man to no avail. The loneliness sets in again and depression washes over the character and the audience. Just as things become bleaker than a rainy Monday morning, the Daniels put into effect the longest fart joke in cinematic history (probably). The dead body begins to shoot out so much gas that Hank uses said dead body as a high-powered jet ski to reach another part of the island. This is where we all say “what the hell?” and move on with this abstract story.
Besides the long-winded (pun intended) fart noises, we still don’t see any signs of life from the corpse, but Hank decides to drag it through the woods while trying to find civilisation and be rescued. As the two lay in a cave fighting off cold and starvation, the cadaver slowly comes to life with a slurred speech and no memory of who he is or where he came from. Is Hank dreaming up this resurrection as he slowly goes mad after months of isolation and minimal food or is this all true? Honestly, there’s no way of telling. After some questioning the unexplained none-dead man turns out to be Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), a Weekend at Bernie’s type of body that can’t move his limbs but has the power of speech. At this point you’re probably going to love or hate this film. As Hank comes to terms with his new friend’s resurgence the two begin to help each other. Much like the title suggests, Manny has several abilities that one might use to survive in the wild. He can be used to chop wood, shoot harpoons out of his mouth and produce an erection that acts as a compass. It’s never made clear if any of this is really happening or if it’s all in Hank’s head but it sure as hell is fun to watch.
Daniel Radcliffe does a good job of playing a near dead body, with his constipated speech and lifeless eyes. What this film does nicely is walk the line between the dramatic and funny. As Manny has no memories of where he came from or who he was before, it’s up to Hank to teach him about life, ways of socialising and of course, masturbation (but not in a weird way). An easy way of looking at this relationship is comparing it to Tom Hanks and Wilson from Castaway but instead of a volleyball we get Radcliffe as a decomposing corpse. But this analogy might be oversimplifying the dynamic a bit. Hank confides in Manny, telling him about his distant father and bland life back home. As Hank drags Manny through the heavily wooded terrain, Hank tries to explain life to the curious Manny in a way that makes sense to a person who has no idea. Hank attempts to get Manny to understand life’s ways by using very creative methods of turning branches and bits of garbage into helpful dioramas about catching a bus or going to the movies. If none of this is translating well then that’s fine because this movie is hard to pin down.
For those looking for a movie that isn’t a reboot or sequel or relies on original source material then Swiss Army Man will most definitely be for you. There are the occasional Hollywood conventions with Hank explaining to Manny that he’s in love with a girl who doesn’t know he exists, Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) but with its twist ending all of that is forgiven. Though this movie is amazing visually and probably has the closest thing to an original story idea in 2016, it’s still no masterpiece. With saying that if you’re feeling the fatigue from the overload of Marvel/DC/Superhero/Animated or any other summer blockbuster films then it’s worth checking out this movie for the premise alone.
Summary: If you’re feeling the fatigue from the overload of Marvel/DC/Superhero/Animated or any other summer blockbuster films then it’s worth checking out this movie for the premise alone.